ISSN 2330-717X

FSB New Style In Espionage Cases: It Is Necessary To Cooperate


Light Sentence in Espionage Trial Shows New Tactic to Reward  Cooperation

By Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan

(Argentura) — The surprisingly  lenient sentence — four years in prison — in the case of Gennadiy  Sipachev, the amateur cartographer from Yekaterinburg who was accused of  handing secret maps over to the Pentagon, shows that the Federal  Security Service (FSB) is again changing its tactics in “espionage”  cases.

Sentences in such trials always bear a demonstrative nature and are  little linked to the real damage the spy has dealt the country’s  defensive ability; it is above all a signal sent by the Kremlin. If, for  example, academics Igor Sutyagin and Valentin Danilov receive 15 and 14  years in prison respectively, it is a direct hint that the scientific  community should forget about unsanctioned foreign contacts. The  question is what signal the Kremlin is sending in the case of Sipachev.

Not a great deal is known about this case — it was, as usual,  classified at the request of the FSB, and since Sipachev took the path  of cooperation with the investigation his attorneys did not report  anything substantial to the press.

As far as can be understood from the part of the sentence which was made  public to journalists, Sipachev, who was detained in 2008, “at the  assignment of the intelligence services of the US Defense Department  acting under cover of another organization, saved and transferred abroad  via the Internet a map of the Russian Federation’s General Staff  containing information which consists of a state secret.” That  information was maps which, judging by the sentence, are needed by the  Pentagon “during the adjustment of cruise missile guidance systems to  increase the accuracy of hitting the target.”

In general the charge is phrased in approximately the same way as in the  case of Sutyagin and Danilov — the transfer of secret information to  foreign intelligence. However, unlike the two academics Sipachev was  accused not of espionage (up to 20 years imprisonment) but just of  revealing a state secret, which stipulates a maximum of seven years  imprisonment.

It is possible that Sipachev’s lenient sentence is a reaction by the  Kremlin to high profile scandals and criticism from PACE, the Strasbourg  (European) Court of Human Rights, and other international organizations  in whose activity Russia takes part. The secrecy under which such  trials are conducted; gerrymandering with jurors, as occurred in  Sutyagin’s case; a host of judges replaced during the course of a trial,  as occurred in the case of diplomat (Valentin) Moiseyev; and also the  usual procedural violations, a host of which were permitted in each such  trial — all this has become the object of international attention.

Moiseyev has, at that, already won his case in the Strasbourg court and  received compensation of 28,900 euros for the mistakes of the Russian  authorities.

Furthermore, it is known that the infernal terms of imprisonment  received by the academics give rise to particular incomprehension in  Europe. For example, a PACE resolution adopted in April 2007 directly  noted that punishments decided by the Russian courts, especially in the  case of Danilov and Sutyagin, are excessively harsh. As an example of  how Europe acts in similar cases the example of (David) Shayler, a  former employee of British counterintelligence who revealed the secrets  of the security services to the press, was cited. He received six months  in prison, and was released after seven weeks.

Evidently, the Kremlin has indeed got tired of accusations of spy mania.  A few years ago a new tendency on the part of the FSB emerged —  counterintelligence started rejecting the “Espionage” and “Revealing a  State Secret” articles of the Criminal Code, replacing them with charges  of economic crimes.

This tactic was first tested on Oskar Kaybyshev, director of the  Problems of the Super-Plasticity of Metals scientific research  institute, who — over a contract to supply spherical tanks to a South  Korean firm — was accused not of espionage but of the illegal transfer  of dual purpose technology. In 2006 he received six years suspended.

The FSB has taken useful experience into account — spies were not made  either out of Academician Igor Reshetin, general director of  TsNIIMASH-Eksport, Sergey Tverdokhlebov, his first deputy for the  economy, and Aleksandr Rozhkin, his deputy for security; they were  indicted with the misuse of funds and breaching export control rules,  and subsequently with transferring dual purpose technology to China and  smuggling. However, in the case of TsNIIMASH-Eksport the sentence was  harsher — the three accused received from five to 11 years.

As it soon emerged, that was also a signal on the part of the FSB. A few  days after the sentencing a letter was published from one of those  convicted which, in a section called “Systemic Mistake of Defense,”  directly said: “If the director had held a dialogue with the security  bodies, there would have been no terrible consequences at all and his  personal position and the position of the firm on the space technology  market would have only been strengthened. The firm would have received a  singular type of protection, in the good sense of that word, in the  form of the FSB’s Economic Security Service.”

It seems that the lenient sentence in Sipachev’s case is another signal  that it is not only necessary but also helpful to cooperate with the  security bodies. As is especially noted, for the first time in the  practice of state treason cases a pre-trial agreement on cooperation was  concluded, according to which Sipachev fully admitted his guilt and  actively cooperated with the investigation. This opportunity appeared in  Russian practice not long ago at all — true, it was intended that a  deal with justice would be used to bring members and leaders of  organized criminal groups to book. This has a point when it is necessary  to interest in cooperation a bandit who will surrender the whole group  in exchange for being freed from punishment.

True, in espionage cases such deals are not so effective, since the  agent is usually not working as part of a group and knows little about  foreign intelligence (and often does not even know precisely for whom he  was working, if he was recruited under another flag).

Applying this practice in the Sipachev case, the FSB has graphically  shown that admitting guilt in cases of espionage, active cooperation by  the accused with the investigation, and equally the silence maintained  by Sipachev’s attorneys in defending their client will be rewarded. The  message is, in general, clear.

True, what remained beyond the framework of the message was why the  civilian Sipachev, who did not have access to secrets, received a prison  term while whoever supplied the amateur collector with secret maps did  not end up in court.

This article was also published in the Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal,  May 19, 201, and is reprinted with permission of the author.

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Agentura.Ru is an Russian web-site founded in 2000 as internet-community of journalists monitor and write about Russian, American, British, and other Western security and intelligence agencies. Editor of Agentura.Ru is Andrei Soldatov, deputy editor - Irina Borogan.

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